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Real Body Image Talk

Hi. My name is Jessica and I have a problem.

I cannot look at my body without having some sort of criticism. Today, I found some broken blood vessel on my face. It looks like a freckle but up close, it isn’t. I stretched the skin around, inspected it as if I was a scientist, reviewing cells under a microscope. I found the vein. I leaned away from the mirror to see if it was noticeable as it was up close. All I could imagine were varicose veins plaguing my face, like some kind of connect-the-moles game. I started to relive fifth grade again. When the kids made fun of the moles on my face: “Moley! Moley! Moley!” mimicking Austin Powers.

I used to think I had strong, muscular legs. That was until I had a body fat analysis scan that revealed most of my fat is in my legs. Oh, and arms. Now all I see are sausage legs in my cycling kit. I don’t look fast. I look fat. I look like when you stuff a giant pillow into a tiny pillow case – seams and material stretching, pushing maximum density, as it curves into itself.

I am more self-conscious now in shorts knowing full well that there’s more fat than muscles. And I rub the sides of my thighs a lot as if I could rub away cellulite like you do with scuff marks on the floor. Once I scuffed the floor from my bike tires. I tried all different kinds of solutions believing one of them would finally wash away the black rubber streaked across the laminate wood flooring. Finally, I took a butter knife and etched away at the black.

I can’t etch away cellulite.

When I walk, I can feel my inner thighs rubbing together. I know it isn’t muscle because of how much it jiggles. It’s soft and flimsy like silly putty. Only I can’t mold my thighs like a stone statue. And my thighs smash into each other when I sit – doubling in size. I try not to look down when I’m sitting because I know I’ll see a single thigh. One giant, jiggly, fatty thigh.

And I eat another piece of chocolate.

My shirts lay against my stomach just right where I can see the little bump that no matter the number of crunches, planks, or skipped meals, it stays there. I constantly tug at my shirt to hide it, pulling material loose. Using two hands sometimes to stretch the material if it hugs my belly too tight.

I’ll dig my thumbs into my hips trying to find the bone. Then pinching the excess that peeks over my jeans. If no one’s around, I’ll lift my shirt high enough and stare and scrutinize my midsection. Twisting and turning to view every possible angle in a desperate search to find the most flattering. Tightening my stomach, pushing it out, and sucking it in to find the right amount of contraction it’ll take to make it look flat. But it never gets as flat as I want it to. I look down and see that fucking bump every day.

And my gaze travels up. Up to my back where skin folds along my bra strap. Months and months of back strengthening exercises and there’s still back fat leering. Months of attempting to cut portions, match my carb-to-protein ratio, and staring longingly at cookies. Sometimes, I’ll reach behind with a false sense of optimism believing that I’ll be unable to pinch anything.

I call my breasts “orangutan boobs” and now you’re picturing it. A sign of getting older and the effects of gravity. I joke their small size keeps me aero on the bike. Always self-deprecating. Never self-appreciating. I also joke about my “bingo flab,” also known as triceps.

Again with the months of Tricep exercises believing that one day I’ll defy gravity and there won’t be loose skin hanging below my arms. That when I do the first place stance my arms will look strong and mighty, not droopy.

And while I complain about all the physical limitations and imperfections of my body, I never apologize for taking up space. Rarely do I complain to the general public about the size of my thighs or the numerous moles on my face. And when I get really fucking down about my body, I remind myself that at least I have a working one. It takes a single accident to lose it all. With all the activities I do, my flabby stomach drops when I consider what it’d be like to no longer ride my bike, hike, run, stretch, walk, and take care of myself. At that moment my eyes look at the blue sky instead.

5 Ways to Keep Your Athlete Intrinsically Motivated

An athlete participates in sports for a variety of reasons and their motivation to continue and excel can be extrinsically or intrinsically-based. Athletes who are intrinsically motivated participate in sports for internal reasons, such as the enjoyment of the sport and to improve their skills. Extrinsically-motivated athletes participate in sports for external reasons, such as awards and trophies or to not disappoint a family member or friend.

When an athlete focuses on the internal rewards and is therefore, intrinsically-motivated, they are more apt to stay focused, have more confidence and self-efficacy, have more satisfaction, and are less stressed when they make a mistake. On the other hand, extrinsically-motivated athletes who seek out external rewards are more likely to be anxious, fear failure, and show less interest towards achievement.

To keep your athlete motivated, focus on intrinsic motivational factors such as improving their performance, their “Why,” staying positive, being mindful, and setting goals.

 

Focus on Improving Performance

Remind your athletes to compares themselves only to their past performance. Comparing their performance to other athletes is a quick way to demotivation. Of course, part of competing is comparing athletes, but to keep an athlete motivated, it’s better to focus on their past performance. Show them how they’re improving from before. Use metrics and data to show them their improvements instead of where they placed in an event or against another athlete.

 

Ask Them Their “Why”

Everyone has a reason for doing what they do. When you have an athlete who is losing motivation, ask them their “why.” Why do they participate in their sport? What makes them continue on? What made them start in the first place? Can they remember the first time they participated and what that felt like?

When you form a sense of purpose for the athlete, it also creates an environment of self-development and growth. This takes time and patience, but when an athlete finds their purpose they will most likely continue to reach their goals with motivation and inspire others.

 

Stay Positive

A study published by The Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology found that coaches who were positive, encouraging, and provided data-based feedback helped develop an athlete’s intrinsic motivation as opposed to coaches who ignored an athlete’s successes and failures. As a coach, focus on the positives while also helping the athlete grow. The “sandwich method” is most often used when providing constructive feedback: provide the athlete two positives and between them, include something they need to improve. This way, the athlete hears about their positive attributes and is more likely to work harder on the aspect they need to improve knowing they are still doing well.

Additionally, staying positive is considered a “mentally tough” attribute according to a study published by The Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. Athletes are “mentally tough” when they can remain calm, relaxed, and energized in difficult situations as well as have the right attitudes regarding problems and stress. As a coach, lead by example by remaining calm and having the right attitude in response to unfortunate circumstances.

 

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is defined as being aware of your surroundings while focusing on the present moment. When you’re mindful in your sport, you’re fully present in what you’re doing at that moment, also known as “achieving a state of flow.” Learning to prepare psychologically in addition to physically and tactically, helps athletes stay focused, motivated, and improves their performance.

Mindfulness helps athletes disconnect from negative or anxious thoughts. Instead of thinking “I can’t catch the racer,” a mindful athlete will think “Right now, I’m having a thought that I cannot catch the racer,” but they do not hold on to that thought. They let the thought go and instead, focus on their breathing or technique.

 

Set Goals

The biggest factor in keeping an athlete motivated is setting attainable yet challenging goals. Having a direction helps an athlete stay motivated or realize they no longer want to participate in the sport. Ask them if they want to continue this and if so, are they going to do everything they can to be the best athlete in their power? If they want to be the best, they need long-term goals. Long-term goals will help remind your athlete why they’re doing what they’re doing; why they’re training as hard as they are during times of low morale. It’s their long-term goal, their “why,” that will keep them going.

Also, strive for short-term goals because accomplishing goals, whether big or small, gives an athlete additional motivation to keep striving toward their long-term goal.

 

 

Remember that every athlete you train is different and are uniquely motivated for a variety of factors. While one athlete may positively react to negative reinforcement, another athlete needs the positive encouragement to keep going. On the other hand, one athlete may be able to easily adopt a mindfulness practice, whereas it’s like a foreign language to another. Being a great coach means adapting and leading your athletes on the path to a stronger version of themselves. Get to know your athletes on a deep level to know which motivational factors will work best for them.

If you’re an athlete looking for a coach to keep you motivated, please feel free to reach out to me here.

 

Pump the Blues

There are a lot of reasons to be happy around this time of year, but sometimes that just isn’t life. The thing about life is that it’s always challenging you. Once you overcome a challenge, life tests you again. It’s nothing personal. It happens to everyone. We are constantly faced with challenges and every one we overcome makes us that much stronger.

And it brings us down. Sometimes, we’re just too damn tired to face another battle with life, yet we march on, doing the best we can. The holidays can bring out the best and sometimes the not-so-good in us, so what do we do when it feels like Santa shit in our stockings?

Move.

Exercise has been found to make you happier.

 

  1. Doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity boosts your happy feelings. I run at MAF pace (180-your age; stay within 10 beats of that), which is 152-142 heart beats per minute. That’s a pretty moderately-paced run and your pace will differ substantially from mine depending on your fitness level. I also do interval training on the bike, which makes me sweat, pant, and get super red faced. TrainingPeaks will send me a few gold ribbons to make me feel better about my effort.
  1. Happy Feelings are endorphins and neurotransmitters, which are released from the brain. Exercises stimulates the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters help regulate your stress hormones and boosts your mood. Think of a school cafeteria: it’s empty until it’s lunch time. Students start piling in. Just like exercise, lunch time for students generates a packed lunch room. You want every day to be like lunch time.
  1. Exercise helps with depression. People with depression have a smaller hippocampus in their brain, which regulates mood. When we workout our bodies release neurotrophic proteins, which facilitate nerve cells growth and make new connections. When we exercise, this results in nerve cell connections and growth in the hippocampus, which helps symptoms of depression.

Just like how weightlifters want to get mad gainz, you want your hippocampus getting those same gainz like the bros in the gym. Exercise is like lifting heavy weights, growing your muscles. So, pump some iron and move and create some hypertrophy in that hippocampus of yours.

  1. Exercising beyond your limit makes you mentally tougher. I can speak from personal experience that challenging myself in bike racing and 120-mile bike rides has made me more resilient. Knowing I can physically and mentally overcome challenges on the bike has given me the confidence to overcome adversity off the bike too. Additionally, when you work out, your body is forced to react to the stressors you’re placing on it. The more you place your body under this type of stress, the more likely it is to be able to handle other stressors.
  1. 20 minutes of exercise will boost those happy cells. You don’t even have to do some long, arduous workout. Simply going outside for twenty minutes for a walk or jog will help. The point is moving and getting your body to produce more neurotransmitters. If you can dick around on social media for twenty minutes without blinking an eye, surely you can walk outside, ride a bike, jog, yoga, anything that actually makes you feel good instead of FOMO.

 

What can you do?

  1. Move a little bit more every day. Start with 5 minutes if that’s all you can do right now.
  2. Make small goals in the short-term so they’re more likely to be achieved.
  3. Find something you actually like to do and do it often.
  4. Reach out to me and I’ll help: grinandgrindit@gmail.com

 

 

Resources:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/ps-pay020812.php

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/exercise#2

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-reasons-why-exercise-makes-you-happier.html

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/endorphins-exercise-cause-happiness/index.html

https://www.fastcompany.com/3025957/what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier

 

 

Working Out On Your Period

I never realized how much of an affect my period has on my training. That goes for any woman. I always thought when I lacked energy or felt weaker or what have you, I thought that was just me sucking.

After coming in Dead Fucking Last at a Time Trial Championship, I wanted to find out what went wrong that day and how I could prevent it from happening in the future. After books and articles and podcasts, I was recommended Stacy Sim’s book, Roar. I read it and learned a lot about my menstrual cycle and I wanted to learn how best to structure workouts. Instead of working against the natural bullshit that comes with having a period and crazy hormones, I wanted to find a way to incorporate all these fluctuations.

This is what I found out.

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long – some can be as short as 21 days and as long as 35.

There are two 14-day phases: Follicular Phase (Days 1-14) and Luteal Phase (Day 15-28).

My training plan changes well, daily, but let’s break these phases and the appropriate training into weeks.

 

Week One (Follicular Phase)

Day 1 – Start of your period and start of your menstrual cycle.

Follicular Phase begins (your exercise physiology is most like a man’s – strongest right now; you’re likely to feel less pain and recover faster.)

Day 5 / 6 – Ovaries start producing more estrogen

Low Hormone Phase (Day 1-14) – Eat about .35 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight per hour (of training)

While you may have cramps and feel like a turd, your pain tolerance is actually at its highest right now. Your hormones are at their lowest, which means they’re not fucking with you right now.

Get your Hammerfest on. Go for PRs. Get gainz. Your body will do best with anaerobic workouts and you’re less sensitive to insulin.

Movement is also known to help with period symptoms.

 

Week Two (Follicular Phase)

Day 12 – Estrogen levels are high, luteinizing hormone is released which causes ovulation, and an egg is released from fallopian tubes.

Day 13 / 14 – Estrogen levels dip & Luteal Phase begins

Low Hormone Phase (Day 1-14) – Eat about .35 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight per hour (of training)

Your Estrogen is ramping up, which means you’ll get more gains with weightlifting. Be careful though, because during Ovulation (Around Day 12), your joints are a bit more loose and the estrogen messes with collagen structure, so you’re more prone to injuries, particularly ACL tears.

 

Week Three (Luteal Phase)

Day 16 – Progesterone levels surpass estrogen to prepare the lining of the uterus for egg implantation; exercise will feel harder while hormones are high.

VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold are unaffected throughout your cycle but your reaction time, neuromuscular coordination, and manual dexterity diminishes when your hormones are high, so Days 16-24.

Also, during this time, blood sugar levels, breathing rates, and thermoregulation are negatively impacted.

High Hormone Phase (Day 15-28) – Eat more carbs, about .45 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight per hour (of training)

Your body isn’t going to work out best at high intensity and it’s going to prefer to burn fat instead of glycogen. You may also retain more water in this phase.

This would be a good time for Lower Intensity workouts, like base training (Zone 1 and 2; aerobic instead of anaerobic), for example.

 

Week Four (Luteal Phase)

5 days before start of period – Estrogen and Progesterone levels peak. This is where you experience premenstrual symptoms.  

High estrogen levels negatively impact the growing capacity of muscle and progesterone revs up the breakdown of muscle tissue, making it more difficult to access amino acids. This means that muscle breaks down faster during hard efforts. When Progesterone is high (Day 15-28), you definitely want to make sure you get 20-25 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your session.

Estrogen reduces your body’s ability to burn carbs but increases its ability to burn fat. This works for endurance athletes who have trained their bodies to burn fat as energy, but for high intensity activities, you need to eat more carbs.

Our plasma volume drops which is the volume of fluid in our blood. When that’s low, our blood is thicker, which means less blood is pumped with every heartbeat, making exercise feel harder because you don’t sweat as efficiently to cool off.

Progesterone raises our body temperature, so during the high hormone phase, we’ll feel hotter. Progesterone also increases the amount of sodium you sweat out (called “hyponatremia”) so you should counteract this the night before an event by drinking hydration drinks that include sodium.

5-7 days before your period, step up your cramping pre-game prevention and take magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and 80-milligram aspirin every day. This supposedly helps prevent the pain from cramps.

 

Sim’s Action Plan for Power:

Performance during PMS

-250 milligrams of magnesium

-80 milligrams of aspirin

-1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids

Take those every night 7 days before your period starts

 

Pretraining

-Take 5 to 7 grams of BCAA’s to help with the lack of energy

 

In Training

High Hormone Phase (Day 15-28) – Eat more carbs, about .45 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight per hour (of training)

 

Post Training

Progesterone is kind of an asshole. It breaks down muscle faster and inhibits recovery. When Progesterone is high (Day 15-28), you definitely want to make sure you get 20-25 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your session.

 

Recommendations

  1. Track your period and your performance during the different phases (sleep, macronutrients, exercise)
  2. Workout in your fat-burning zone during the Luteal Phase to maximize fat-burning. Find your fat-burning zone by subtracting 20 from your Heart Rate Threshold. For example, mine is 174, so my fat-burning zone is 154.
  3. Eat protein. The jury’s out on this. Some recommend 1:1 protein to pound count while others recommend .8 grams of protein for every pound. Start tracking your protein intake to see where you’re at.
  4. Listen to your body.

 

Resources:

ROAR by Stacy Sims

Ben Greenfield

WTF: Cross-Training

Weight Training

There are a lot of cross-something or others zipping around these days:

Cross/CX/Cyclocross

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CrossFit

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Cross-training

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and plenty o’ others.

So what is “cross-training” and why should you care?

Cross-training is simply working out your body in the same manner as your main sport does, but without doing your main sport.

The goal of cross-training is balancing out your muscles (and body) to improve your fitness in your main sport. It also helps to prevent repetitive use injury.

Repetitive use injuries happen when we constantly do the same motion over and over again.

Think “tennis elbow,” swinging a golf club, or one near and dear to my heart: Cycling.

Think of the number of revolutions your knees have gone through. Hundreds?  Thousands? Millions of times? Yeah. That’s a lot of the same movement pattern which will lead to plenty of other issues if you always do the same thing.

Joseph Gordon Levitt Premium Crush GIF - JosephGordonLevitt PremiumCrush Crash GIFs

Muscle imbalances are generated from well, a ton of things, but the problem with imbalances is that some muscles start to work harder than others which can lead to a host of other issues (hello knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain).

Cross-training, whether you’re a racer or simply enjoy riding your bike, benefits everyone. Here are some things you can do to balance out your body while also strengthening it:

1. Cross-Training: Weights

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Cycling is a low impact sport and giving a quick glance to the men in The Tour it’s obvious. The men have large legs, sure, but they look a bit like Skeletor on their upper half.

It’s because they don’t weight train. There’s still this faux pas of weight training in cycling because of the whole “power to weight ratio.” Cyclists, stereotypically, want everything (including their bodies) to be light as possible but to be able to generate hundreds, if not thousands, watts of power.

The problem is that you can only gain so much muscle solely biking and that’s where weights come in, especially core. If you have a weak core, you’re going at a snail’s pace compared to the person who can hold a plank for five minutes.

If you think about the mechanics of cycling, you’re balancing on the bike. Your arms hold you up, your core keeps you balanced, and your legs propel you forward. If those muscles are weak, how do you think you’ll fare in a group ride, an organized ride, a gran fondo, or in a sprint finish?

Bottom line: weights make you a stronger cyclist.

2. Cross-Training: Yoga, stretching, and foam rolling

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Let’s go back to those muscles who work harder than the freeloading muscles. How do you get that all balanced out and make those freeloaders start pulling their weight (pun intended)?

You find out which muscles are overactive (the ones working harder) and then identifying the underactive (freeloaders) muscles. Once those are identified, you want to start stretching and foam rolling the overactive muscles and work the underactive muscles. Meanwhile, doing a complete yoga routine will increase your overall flexibility, which again, will make you stronger on the bike.

I’m looking at you, desk workers. We’re the worst. Not only do we hold a sitting position while we bike, but our 9-5 jobs has us sitting for hours on end. Say hi to tight hip flexors.

You can google/YouTube “yoga for cyclists” and find loads of videos anywhere from 8 minutes and longer. I particularly like Sean Vigue.

Incorporating yoga, stretching, and foam rolling into your routine won’t just calm your mind but calm those angry, knotty muscles.

3. Cross-Training: Running

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Yeah, yeah. I know. I say the same thing: “Why run when you have a bike?” I always think of The Walking Dead and if that were to happen to me, I’d run. I don’t have to be the fastest runner; I just have to be able to outrun the rest of my group.

Running actually provides some pretty decent benefits too.

First of all, it strengthens your lungs. The cool thing about that is when you’re on the bike, with running in your back pocket, you’ll have a higher lung capacity. Strong lungs means you’re kicking the pants off the other racers who aren’t running.

Running seems to burn more calories than cycling. Granted, it all depends on the kind of running and cycling you’re doing, but overall, it burns more calories. So if you’re goal is to increase your power-to-weight ratio or just drop a couple pounds, then this may be something to put on your training docket. But while you may be able to outrun zombies, you can’t outrun a bad diet.

Equally important if not more so than the previous reasons to take up running, is that running is a high impact activity, which means, it puts a lot of pressure on your body in general. Yeah, sure, your buddy’s knees hurt after they run. Well, it’s probably because they need better shoes or need to get their running form analyzed. Cycling, on the other hand, is low impact, which means there isn’t much pressure placed on our joints – minus maybe, our rears.

In all seriousness, cyclists can lose bone density if all they ever do is bike. Look at our buddy Chris Froome. He may be winning The Tour de France, but he’s losing bone density. Your bones need to be strong to keep your body up.

Weak bones means you don’t have that structure in place to hold you up from falling down.

4. Cross-Training: Having Fun

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It’s not a real training regimen or workout, but seriously, let’s get less serious. While road and mountain bike racing have officially hit “off-season,” cross has only just begun. If you participate in all these disciplines, then you don’t have much a break – mental or physical. For those of us who like to ride for fun or participate in organized rides during the summer, maybe you don’t need to totally lay off the bike, but definitely change up the routine and try something you’ve never done before. Rock climbing? Sure! Snowboarding? Bring it on! How about a hike or simply taking a day off to relax.

Taking time off the bike and focusing your attention on other endeavors will make you that much more stronger (mentally and hopefully physically) when you jump back on the saddle.

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